Professor Dennis Tenen was featured in WalletHub's recent piece about States that Vaccinate the Most

September 16, 2021


According to the World Health Organization, vaccine resistance is one of the top global health challenges. What measures should be taken to reduce vaccine exemptions and safeguard the at-risk population?

Vaccine hesitancy has long been simmering at the back burner of public health policy in the US and worldwide. As a scholar, I believe the topic needs more sustained attention--an inquiry into the movement’s history, ideology, causes, and effective strategies for counter-messaging. This requires funding. Too often, the official response is based on anecdotal data rather than evidence.

What role does the media play in educating the public when it comes to vaccination hesitancy?

Vaccine-hesitant communities tend to distrust expertise of all kinds, including that of “mainstream media.” And skepticism of the media is a contemporary issue that goes beyond vaccination.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted views on routine vaccination?

The pandemic has entrenched existing divides, bringing vaccine-hesitancy into the mainstream. Much of the conversation before 2020, around measles, for example, happened among parents, on Facebook groups, and online bulletin boards dedicated to natural health and parenting. Today, we see that conversation spill over into many other venues, as vaccination is becoming an everyday health concern for all people. 

What are the challenges of the vaccine rollout in 2021?

From our perspective (as scholars studying the language of vaccine hesitancy) the biggest challenge of the vaccine rollout going forward will be the “hardening” of the vaccine-hesitant position. A significant percentage of the American public continues to refuse the vaccine. How can public health officials reach this public? And what can be done to better convince the truly hesitant?


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